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Living near a pub boosts risky drinking

6th November 2012

People who live within one kilometre (0.6 miles) of a pub or bar have a higher risk of drinking more, according to researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

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People who lived within that distance from a bar or pub had a 13% higher likelihood of engaging in risky drinking than those who lived outside it, the study found.

Moving closer to a pub or bar raises the likelihood of risky drinking, while moving further away from one diminishes it.

A change in a person's distance from the nearest pub increased or decreased their likelihood of risky drinking by 17%, according to the research team, which was led by Jaana L. Halonen.

However, the researchers admit that factors other than proximity could also explain the observed association.

For example, heavy drinking is more common in Australia and in the UK than in Finland, and less common in the United States, Halonen said.

But she said the ease of access to pubs and bars was likely to affect drinking in any country.

According to professor Jussi Vahtera from Turku University, the alcohol-induced mortality rate of men and women living alone rose after a fall in alcohol prices in 2001.

In particular, working-age individuals are more susceptible to drinking heavily where alcohol is easily available.

Weakened working ability and shortened careers could be among the unintended effects of a workplace drinking establishment, Vahtera said.

The issue could lead to significant public health problems.

In the last 20 years, public health issues linked to alcohol have doubled among Finnish people of working age.

This group's alcohol-related mortality is higher than that linked to coronary disease.

Halonen's team is the first to study the influence of distance from drinking establishment on drinking habits.

For the purposes of the study, her team combined data from the addresses of licensed bars from 2000 and 2008, which were obtained from the alcohol licence register, with the study surveys of their own institute’s Finnish Public Sector study from the period 2000-2009.

One survey included more than 78,000 people, while two others attracted more than 55,000 responses. Their average age was 44.

Writing in the journal Addiction, the researchers said that 75% of the respondents lived less than a kilometre from the nearest bar or pub, and nearly 10% of the men reported heavy alcohol use of more than 24 units a week. Of the women, 7% reported drinking heavily, defined as more than 16 units a week.

The team also collaborated with researchers from the universities of Turku, Helsinki, London and Harvard.


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